TOWN OF TUSTEN, NY — In a brightly lit and chilly town hall basement, a committee meets regularly every two weeks to discuss the details of a Design Master Plan for the Town of Tusten. At a recent meeting, the group sat around a small table, their heads bowed over, looking at a large map of an aerial view of Tusten with numbered sections. Number by number, the committee discussed ideas for the future of the Town of Tusten.
The committee was formed last summer, representing a diverse group of Tusten residents from all over the town and of different ages, backgrounds and employment. Some have lived here for numerous years. One of the committee’s first tasks was to hire an architect. They drafted a Request for Proposal (RFP) and hired Buck Moorhead, who owns a house in Callicoon and an architecture firm in New York City. He and the committee will continue to discuss plans until they have a committee-approved draft to present to the public.
The next step in writing a master plan is to hear from the public, and Moorhead explained that the public is being invited to answer the question, “What can Narrowsburg be 20 to 25 years from now?”
During the recent hour-long meeting, the committee discussed many possible answers to that question, hashing out ideas and ideals, and talking about the feasibility of each and how to get there. There were agreements and disagreements, as any planning group would encounter, and they checked off some of the numbered items on their list, even as it keeps growing. One could picture the original founders of Tusten having a similar meeting.
The outline of the design plan is what Moorhead calls a “living document.” It addresses many concepts, while still keeping it open to ideas and changes, and was unanimously passed by the town board last summer. It was written with regard to a comprehensive plan completed by the Town of Tusten in 2007, which incorporated the suggestions of residents in the form of a survey, public hearings and written comments.
Architect Karl Wasner, the chair of the committee, says the town-wide master plan is a short- and long-range proactive visioning plan, so that “we wind up in a better place than we are now.” The plan targets certain areas for improvement in the Tusten area, such as promoting environmental, artistic, cultural and touristic values, promoting Narrowsburg as a pedestrian (car-independent) community, developing a natural stairway at Main Street that optimizes tourist and pedestrian access to the riverfront, and more.
The committee wants the plan to physically unify the Town of Tusten, but they also hope it will unify it in spirit and community pride. In the original RFP that led to hiring architect Moorhead, they write that it “will befit the potential of and reflect the rich character and charm of Narrowsburg,” and it “will promote and enhance the business and quality of life for the whole village area.”
As far as funding, the committee hopes to secure grant money, and says that no money will come from taxpayers.
Former town board member Andrea Reynosa has been researching grants for the project. The Narrowsburg Beautification Group (NBG) has received grants through Sullivan Renaissance, including the $25,000 Golden Feather Award in 2012, and a community development grant for $5,000. They, the town board and the design committee had a meeting and everyone agreed that it would be smart for NBG to partner on this initiative, and NBG gave $5,000 to the town to be used for the design plan.
Helen Budrock, the community planner at Sullivan Renaissance, said that their organization has supported the NBG in the past, and were excited to see them partnering with the master design planning committee. She said it will, “Get communities to think about the bigger picture.”
One of the biggest themes is to make the hamlet a pedestrian community. A national trend has shown that more and more people want pedestrian-friendly areas, where they can walk to work, the grocery store and then some. There is also a desire for more public spaces, especially in crowded cities, where small parks and plazas are popping up everywhere, like in Times Square in New York City, where parts of the streets have been closed to cars, allowing pedestrians to sit and hang out. Instead of cars fleeing the area, business boomed.
This trend has been a focus of the public discussion about community design recently; for example a May 31 New York Times article, “A Prescription for Plazas and Public Places,” discusses how the desire to be in the middle of things is one that many people understand and inherently feel. It’s why people congregate in the kitchen during a dinner party; it’s where the activity is. These ideas the committee believes can work for Tusten. They said they are taking a bottom-up approach to design something that the community wants and can enjoy for years to come.